Monday, 22 May 2017

Swami Vivekananda - Memories of Kamakhya Nath Mitra - 4

I could not resist the temptation of seeing him again, and so on the next day I went once more to the house of the late Babu Balaram. On this day there was no great gathering. Swamiji was seated in the veranda on an asana surrounded by a group of his brother-disciples. The Brahma-Sutras with Shankara's commentary was being read out by one of them, and Swamiji passed explanatory remarks here and there. Today's atmosphere was different altogether. It was all very quiet. Soon after the reading was finished, one of the Swami's brother-disciples spoke of the spirit-world and read an extract from a theosophical book. Swamiji at once came down upon him and extinguished him completely. I saw that the Swami was a hater of spookism. He clearly said that all this was weakening and debilitating and had nothing to do with true religion. After this, many light topics were introduced, and then Swamiji laughed and joked like a child. Here was another mood. I said to myself: Is it the same Swami I saw yesterday — the thundering Swami in dead earnest?

It was about a year after this that I saw the Swami once more — and this time on the platform. Now I was face to face with Vivekananda the orator. The scene was the Star Theatre of Calcutta. The occasion was the introduction of Sister Nivedita to the Calcutta public. The hall was crammed to suffocation. On the dais were seated many distinguished persons. I remember only Sir Jagadish Bose and Sir Ananda Charlu among them. Swami Vivekananda was in his best form. He wore a gairic turban and a long-flowing robe which was also gairic in hue. He introduced Sister Nivedita in a neat little speech. The Sister addressed the meeting in a graceful style. Then rose Swami Vivekananda, and he spoke on his foreign policy. The speech is to be found in the Mayavati Memorial Edition of his Complete Works. He brought forward a scheme of his future missionary work in the West. The speech was full of fire. Such thrilling voice, rich intonation, variation of pitch. strong and sonorous accent with occasional explosion as of the bolt of heaven I have never heard in my life nor am I likely to hear again. Sometimes he paced to and fro on the platform as he spoke and folded his arms across his chest. Sometimes he faced the audience and waved his hand. His expressions flowed free and fast with the rush and impetuously of a mountain torrent. His words were like the roaring of a cataract. Well might The New York Herald say: "He is an orator by divine right." Altogether a more majestic, striking, and magnetic personality it is hard to conceive. We heard him spell bound. Each word was an arrow that went straight to the heart.

Such is my recollection of Swami Vivekananda. To fully understand his message I read subsequently all his speeches and writings and almost all about his Master. There is not a single problem of our individual, social, and political life, that he has not touched and illuminated. He has given a new impulse to the country. So far as I am concerned, he is growing more and more vivid to me with the lapse of years, and I see his stature dilated today "like Teneriffe or Atlas". His message is the message of freedom, strength, fearlessness, and self-confidence. It is the eternal truths of our religion that he has preached in a new way, in modem terms, and he has also shown how these truths are to be applied to the present conditions of India and the rest of the world. A more constructive thinker and inspiring teacher I have not seen in my life. I do not know a single self-sacrificing Indian worker of the present century who has not been influenced more or less by his thoughts, words, and example. More than anybody else he has made India respected abroad. Many a child of the West has found in his message the solace of his life and the solace of his death. It is true that at the present moment the predominant interest of our country has become political, but the better minds believe with Swami Vivekananda that spirituality must be the basis of all our activities. It is difficult to say what form our national reconstruction will exactly take, it is difficult to predict anything about the future of the world as a whole, but I sincerely believe that the ideas and ideals of Swami Vivekananda are destined to play a very important part in the history of the human race. May his influence grow from more to more!